Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Vincent is a solitary figure who cannot escape from himself any more than he can flee from D. J. All of his previous love affairs have been failures, and he has abandoned everyone with whom he has been intimate. Like all mortals, each of his lovers had some imperfection; Vincent, in spite of his brief infatuation with each, grew to despise them, both male and female. Although he has escaped from all of them, he knows, or suspects, that he has injured them beyond healing. Until his affair with D. J., however, he evaded the responsibility for their destruction. However, D. J. is not to be eluded. She remains his waking reminder that he is a destroyer, a victimizer, a Mr. Destronelli, the one who has pursued D. J. throughout her life, the stranger who looks like everyone.

Vincent has also destroyed himself, though, becoming his own victim. Before meeting D. J., he was able to exist in his usual way, to work, to spend some time with friends, and to avoid examining his behavior too closely. However, when he sees her painting of the headless hawk, two things happen to him: He has the sensation that the artist must know and understand his inner being, and he finds that he identifies with the hawk itself. Lacking its head, the hawk is without direction. Vincent recognizes his own directionless self, a man who has talents and abilities that have never been utilized, a man who has never really loved anyone. If, then, the hawk is a representation of Vincent, his dream in which the hawk assaults him reveals Vincent to be his own victim. Furthermore, his attack on the painting suggests self-destruction.

As to D. J.’s knowing his secret self even before she meets him, Vincent is only partly right. The deception and betrayal that she has experienced and that she attributes to Mr. Destronelli are characteristic of Vincent. That D. J. is an innocent, an eternal child, is shown through Vincent’s dream. She is also his last opportunity for love, for she is symbolically his last dancing partner in his dream. On awakening from his dream, however, Vincent speaks the terrible words that bring about the death of love. Instead of accepting D. J. as she is, he rejects her.